Posted in Early Tudors

The Unlikely King: Henry VII: The last hope of the house of Lancaster…

When Edward IV died unexpectedly of a short illness aged forty in April 1471 he left two sons. Richard Duke of York, aged 9 and Edward, Prince of Wales aged 12. After young Edward V was proclaimed King, his uncle Richard of Gloucester went to York Minster to declare his loyalty to his nephew.

The beautiful inside of York Minster

The Croyland Chronicle states that before he died Edward IV had said that he wanted his brother Richard to be the Lord Protector of his heir. This is traditional with boy kings who undoubtedly face many issues because they are easily ruled and bullied by Lords and advisers who often have their own agendas.

Edward V and his uncle Gloucester set out together for London together on 29 April. The following day, Gloucester arrested Edward’s bodyguards including the boys’ other uncle, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, and their half-brother Sir Richard Grey. They were both sent to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire where, on 25 June, they were beheaded without trial.

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The ruins of Pontefract castle by Tim Green

Gloucester quickly took possession of the King himself, prompting the boys mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville to take her other son, Richard, Duke of York, and her daughters into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

Gloucester took the young king to the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation and his younger brother, who had been in sanctuary with his mother, arrived shortly after. The date of the coronation was postponed from 4 May to 25 June. After this the date of Edward’s coronation was indefinitely postponed by their uncle Gloucester.

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The children of Edward IV of England by Pedro Américo

On Sunday 22 June, a sermon was preached at Saint Paul’s Cross claiming that Richard Duke of Gloucester was the only legitimate heir of the House of York. On 25 June, a group of lords, knights and gentlemen petitioned Richard to take the throne.

Both  of the princes were declared illegitimate by Parliament and the act was known as Titulus Regius. This said that Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage was invalid because of Edward’s pre-contract  to Lady Eleanor Butler.Gloucester was crowned King Richard III of England on 3 July.

A silver groat of Richard 3rd, Portrait and his new tomb.

The princes in the tower disappeared shortly after never to be seen again. The suspected murders of the princes caused hundreds of angry rebels to flee to Brittany to support Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry who had been in exile since 1471. Within two years Henry Tudor led an invasion through Wales with his loyal followers and across the boarder into England. Few lords supported Richard III into battle and three of his five army’s refused to join him to fight at Bosworth field. His own troops were simply unwilling to fight for him.

Henry VII became king after Richard’s death in battle but the king never felt secure on his throne. His reign saw constant threats to his life. He married Elizabeth of York who was the elder sister of the Princes in the tower. This decision would make him and his heirs  sit more firmly on their thrones.

Henry invented the red rose of Lancaster which had not existed before he became king and he combined it with the white rose of York to make the Tudor rose. The red rose of Lancaster remains England’s embalm to this day along with the three Lions. This embalm comes from the three lions that were kept in the Tower of London’s menagerie and they are all used on sports kits to represent England.

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Henry was a deeply religious man and he had many tragedies in his life. His son and heir Prince Arthur died shortly after his short marriage to the Spanish Princess Katherine of Aragon. Leaving the King devastated and with only one male heir left. Prince Henry the Duke of York had been expected to join the church but now he was the Prince of Wales and would be over protected by his father who wanted to ensure his sons health.

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Elizabeth of York

His beloved wife died in childbirth in the attempt of giving  Henry another male heir. The child was a daughter Catherine who also died shortly after her mother.

Henry VII was a hard working king but he had many financial problems. It was these that gave Henry the reputation of being a miser. He became hated by the gentry and the middle classes because of his effective tax gathering measures. At the end of his life his memory became poor and he was depressed because so many of his contemporaries and advisers were dying around him. He turned to God and left his descendants enough money to secure the Tudor line.

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Author:

I love Tudor history and my bookshelves seem to groan a bit more every year !

4 thoughts on “The Unlikely King: Henry VII: The last hope of the house of Lancaster…

    1. There are many rumours about what happened to them. There is a strange one that claims that they never died at all and were raised as courtiers at Henry’s court. It comes from the symbolism in a Tudor family painting. (Maybe an idea for my next post?) Sadly two little bodies were found buried in a trunk under some old stairs in the Tower. It was presumed that they were the princes and they were buried in Westminster Abbey long before forensics became a science. Elizabeth II was asked if she would allow the boys bodies tested with her own DNA. She refused being unwilling to have her relatives disturbed and starting a DNA frenzy on her dead ancestors. It is one of the darkest and saddest part of our history and one that is unlikely to be solved.

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